Greece Post 1 - First Time in Athens – and Stranded

Two tall poles mark the port of Piraeus for incoming ships and boats. Piraeus is the port section of Athens. This was where we spent our first night and the following day in Greece.

We arrived in Athens late in the day and food was the first order of business. We ended up at a restaurant with typical Greek food and sidewalk tables on this street corner. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to find this restaurant by its address! Fortunately, most menus had an English section and many people knew enough English so we got by just fine.

We ordered Souvlaki and retsina, Greek wine. The sandwich was delicious and so was the wine. Funny thing about the wine, though. We each ordered one and the waitress looked at us oddly. When it came, we saw why: each order was in a half liter bottle! We are used to New York City where, for 5 times the amount this restaurant was charging us, you get about 8 swallows. Uh-oh – yamas! (Greek for “cheers”)

The ferry to Paros, where we were going next morning, was cancelled due to high winds. We were stranded until the weather cleared up, and no one knew when that would be. That left us out on the streets, waiting to see if one would sail later in the day. So we walked, looked, and sat around at restaurants and cafes a lot, waiting for updates. The most intriguing Greek sight that day was the open-air market. There were small shops and street vendors selling local items.

Walking through a local market shows you more about a culture than the look-alike malls seem to exist in every major city in the world these days. The smell at this shop, selling dried flowers and herbs, was wonderfully fragrant.

Snails anyone? And they were alive.

Fish, of course.

There were many plant stores. Why not? Then weather is so beautiful here that they are easy to grow. We noticed that most apartment buildings had terraces, and many of those terraces were filled with plants.

As you would guess, olive oil is big business here in Greece. It is also a do-it-yourself thing so we saw several stores in the market area that had all the necessary paraphernalia for making your own oil from olives.

In addition to larger stands or actual stores, local vendors set up small tables on the street to sell their wares.

Athens streets can be difficult to navigate on foot. Sidewalks stop unexpectedly, poles pop up in the middle of them, or they can be narrow enough that only one person can fit on the walkway. This is not a city for the physically disabled or visually impaired! I worried about this guy using his cane trying to figure out what to do when this cement barrier totally blocked the sidewalk he was on but a local person helped him out.

A lot of time was spent eating or drinking coffee while we waited to hear if or when the ferry would sail. This gyro was great. I asked for it without French fries which, for some reason, the Greeks love to include inside souvlaki and gyro sandwiches!

The ferry was delayed several times during the day but was finally scheduled to leave at 10pm. Down to the port at last!

It’s like a floating city inside these big ferries! People eat, drink, and socialize on the 4-hour trip. They also smoke a lot, which makes us appreciate the no-smoking-in-public-places policies at home.

It was night by the time the ferry left. We were scheduled to arrive at 2AM. The moon rose over the Athens skyline as we sailed out of the harbor. Athens looked gorgeous and I was looking forward to exploring it later in the trip but for now, we were finally on our way to the island of Paros!